UAE’s Solar Energy Transition
As the massive roll-out of solar energy is being planned in the MENA region, the UAE is taking lead with the development of some of the major projects in the region.
UAE is by far the leader when it comes to innovation and the adoption of renewable initiatives. There is a strong willingness from the government to support cleaner forms of electricity in an attempt to lower its carbon footprint. The country has introduced several supporting mechanisms and policies for its renewable energy sector and has ensured the diversification of its energy resources are on track, with the help of European and international development organizations.
Lower solar prices combined with technological advancements have promoted growth of large-scale solar-power plants in the region. Rooftop solar is also picking up with about 20 MWp connected by December 2017. It is expected to reach 60−70 MW in 2018, resulting in triple-digit growth in a one-year period. In addition, distributed energy generation through rooftop and industrial solar projects will eventually be combined with battery storage to provide 24/7 energy solutions. This has reinforced UAE’s position as one of the most advanced countries for solar energy.
In 2017, DEWA announced the completion of the 200 MW Phase II of the Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum solar park; total capacity of which is expected to reach 5 GW by 2030. It is the largest single-site solar energy project in the world based on the IPP model, which will help the emirates to meets its production target of at least 7% of total power generation from renewable sources by 2020.
The fourth phase of the Solar Park, the biggest CSP project in the world has been launched in the first quarter. The project has achieved the world’s lowest LCOE of 7.3 cents kW/h. This is a new global achievement for the UAE.
The construction work of DEWA’s Phase III and Abu Dhabi’s largest solar plant at Sweihan with capacity 1.17 GW have started. The plant is expected to be connected to the grid by early 2019. The utility soon plans to launch a tender for Phase V of the MBR Solar Park. Total capacity is expected to be 300 MW.
DEWA has awarded a contract to Etihad ESCO for the development and installation of floating solar PV systems on the utility´s water reservoirs. The company estimates the total installed capacity of the floating solar PV systems could reach up to 60MW (peak).
ADWEA is planning to issue an RFP for Sweihan II solar PV project with a minimum capacity of 350 MW, but is likely to end up closer to 1.2 GW if the sample template for Sweihan I is used.
2018 is forecast to be a record year for solar in the region with expected tenders for more than 1.5 GW solar PV projects and plenty of opportunities in the associated technologies.